Being a digital nomad: pros and cons
I am a digital nomad. “Digital nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles. This is often accomplished through the use of devices that have wireless Internet capabilities such as smartphones”, explains the Wikipedia.
Digital nomads are usually entrepreneurs or young people looking for independence, for a lifestyle that avoids the 9 to 5 schedule, and even though one of the first times that the term digital nomad appeared was in 1997 as the title of a book written by Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners, it started to become popular a few years ago. More and more employees embrace the remote work lifestyle, as the New York Times found in a recent study, because the digital nomad lifestyle has a lot to offer and a lot to teach you:
1. Freedom and flexibility
If you asked me which is the weirdest place I have worked from my answer would be an airport toilet. I had just landed on a Monday morning from some holidays and I had a call. My computer was running low on battery and I desperately needed a plug to charge it. Toilets have plugs, so they became my office for one morning.
When being a digital nomad, your workplace can be anywhere. You just need two best friends: wifi and a laptop -or tablet or phone. Cool companies include in the perks duvet days once or twice a month, showing that they are flexible. You can work from your bed if you want, you can use that cute café as your office, you can work in a train or bus or plane if there is wifi. You can work anywhere, which allows you to have a lot of freedom and flexibility.
“When being a digital nomad, your workplace can be anywhere. You just need two best friends: wifi and a laptop -or tablet or phone.”
You can move to that city you always wanted to live. In fact, several magazines rank cities based on the cost of living, the weather and quality of life and the internet speed. There are even platforms to connect with other digital nomads, as Nomad List, as well as a lot of events for digital nomads working remotely while traveling the world that you can find in Meetup, Coach Surfing or Facebook groups.
You can take the opportunity of working remotely as a chance to learn new languages, discover new cultures, stories and people to get inspired. You can travel and never stop stepping out of your comfort zone, living a life full of excitement and adventure. And that is cool. Very cool, the coolest thing about being a digital nomad, but it is directly linked to the biggest challenge:
2. Productivity and time management skills
Even though you have freedom to schedule yourself, working remotely can become a huge challenge when it comes to time management skills and being as productive as in a traditional work environment: an office.
You probably have certain schedule to follow and some calls and deadlines, but the flexibility of working remotely allows you to work in the evening or at night if you are not a morning person at all, you find the right time for you. Right now it is 5 a.m. in the morning and, for some reason, I couldn’t sleep and the idea of writing this post came to my mind. That is positive, but for some people the lack of a routine or some habits can turn into a problem to be productive or it can also lead to the feeling that you never switch your brain off.
However, that has a very simple solution: setting a schedule and pretending you work office hours if that makes you feel better and be more productive, or even renting a coworking space.
3. Learning by doing
If you are a bit junior or new to a job, working remotely means your training will be online and by Skype calls. You cannot ask your coworker next to you to help you if you get stucked or you don’t remember how to do something, because you are working alone. It is true that you can send them a text or an email, but the real-time immediacy is not as efficient as when you are working in the same space.
This means two things: it will take you longer to finish some tasks, so you have to be patient and use that time management skills to work on something else, being multitasking. But it also means that sometimes you will have to figure it out by yourself, which can be hard at the beginning, but it is a very efficient way of learning, because it makes you very independent and ready to face on your own any new challenge. For this reason, to work as a digital nomad, you should have some knowledge and computer skills to be able to work alone, whether if you are a freelancer selling your services or an employee working remotely.
“Working remotely makes you very independent and ready to face on your own any new challenge ahead.”
You have to learn on your own, you have to work on your own. You can have many coworkers online on the other side of your screen, but the reality is that day after day you are working alone, at least physically. But you shouldn’t forget that you are part of a team, unless you are a freelancer working for different projects. In this case, you can look for digital nomads communities in your city and join them.
There are people who enjoy it, but there are some other who miss the office life: the lunch break, the coffee break and talking with coworkers. Renting a desk in a coworking space can make you feel back in that office lifestyle in which you talk to people more often, leave your house and have a differentiated space to work and to live.
Being online chatting with your coworkers can also be a way of decreasing this feeling. Make sure you talk to them, you Skype them, you know them and have fun working together even remotely without seeing their faces every day. Communication is very important to build a team and feel you are part of it; in fact, some companies usually do team building trips, so that way you can get to know your team better and you have fun working together. And that is the most important thing, because after all, we spend at least 8 hours of our day working. So make sure you enjoy it whether you are a digital nomad working from a remote beach or an employee in an office!